COACH OF THE YEAR: BAYLOR’S ART BRILES
When Art Briles became Baylor’s football coach, he had little more than hope and a prayer to sell to recruits.
Six years later, he’s got something much more substantial: A Big 12 championship trophy.
After taking over a program mired in the Big 12 cellar, Briles led the Bears to their first Big 12 championship and a school-best 11-1 record this season. Baylor will make its first BCS bowl appearance Jan. 1 against Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.
Baylor’s remarkable season made Briles the clear choice as the Tribune-Herald’s Big 12 coach of the year.
Following Baylor’s Big 12 title clinching 30-10 over Texas last weekend at Floyd Casey Stadium, Briles reflected on his program’s rise from the bottom to the top.
“I had a guy send me a quote a couple weeks ago that was something Michelangelo said, ‘The problem with people is not that they aim too high and miss, it’s that they aim too low and hit,’ ” Briles said. “That’s the way you have to think and feel, and that’s what we talk to players about. We’re always going to aim high.”
The Bears talked about winning the Big 12 championship since the summer. Though they were picked fifth in the league by the Big 12 coaches, they were confident they could make a run at the title.
They had reasons to be optimistic since they finished strong last season with four straight wins capped by a 49-26 win over UCLA in the Holiday Bowl.
Many of the key starting offensive players were back including running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, wide receiver Tevin Reese and All-America offensive lineman Cyril Richardson. Seven senior starters were back on a defense that had improved rapidly.
The Bears came out burning as they won their first nine games before dropping a 49-17 decision to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Regrouping from that loss, the Bears knocked off TCU and Texas to win the outright Big 12 title.
The Bears hope to carry the momentum from the last two wins into the Fiesta Bowl.
“We played as well as anybody in America for the first six to seven weeks on both sides of the ball,” Briles said. “It’s hard to maintain that level that long. We hit a little bump in the road and now we’re fighting and grinding to get where we need to be. We’re excited about going to Arizona with a good taste in our mouths.”
The Fiesta Bowl appearance will mark Baylor’s school-record fourth straight bowl game. The Bears had gone 14 seasons without a bowl before the 2010 Texas Bowl, and now they expect to go every year with Briles leading the way.
“It’s a big thing for Baylor because we’ve never been in this situation before,” Baylor senior linebacker Eddie Lackey said. “It says a lot about where we’ve come from and where we’re going with this program. For us to make it to this point and see the program rise to where it is now is really gratifying.”
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: BAYLOR QB BRYCE PETTY
Bryce Petty knew the bar was sky high for Baylor quarterbacks after watching Robert Griffin III win the Heisman Trophy two years ago and Nick Florence set the school record for passing yardage last season.
How do you follow such brilliance?
Easy. Put together a brilliant season of your own.
After three seasons as a backup, Petty shined in his first season as a starter as he led the Big 12 with 3,840 yards passing and 30 touchdowns. But most importantly, he helped the Bears win their first Big 12 championship and earn their first BCS bowl bid to the Fiesta Bowl.
Petty’s big numbers and leadership ability made him the Tribune-Herald’s offensive player of the year.
“Bryce has been phenomenal,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “The numbers are good, but what I’m so impressed with is his leadership ability. The guy is a natural leader and has so much passion, poise and maturity.”
Playing regularly for the first time since his senior season at Midlothian High School in 2008, Petty had hoped to become Baylor’s starting quarterback much earlier in his college career.
Instead, he had to wait his turn after watching Griffin and Florence excel in Briles’ offense. But when he finally got his turn, he produced numbers similar to his predecessors while leading the Bears to a school-record 11-1 mark.
Petty has completed 61.8 percent of his passes while throwing just two interceptions in 356 attempts. He ranks second nationally in passing efficiency behind Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. Petty has also rushed for 11 touchdowns to match running back Lache Seastrunk.
“God has a very funny way of planning our story better than we could,” Petty said. “If it had been my way, I would have been playing as a freshman. For us to have the team we have, I couldn’t have written it better myself. We’ve had a lot of memories and high points this season, and the best part is that it isn’t over.”
Petty said he’s coming back for his senior year instead of declaring early for the NFL draft. That will likely mean he will be one of the leading Heisman Trophy candidates coming into next season.
“For having the limited number of reps he had coming into this year, what he has done has been remarkable,” Briles said. “For the rest of this year and 2014 he’s setting himself up for some really good times.”
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: TEXAS DE JACKSON JEFFCOAT
As the son of former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jim Jeffcoat, there’s no questioning Jackson Jeffcoat’s bloodlines.
Jackson is doing a pretty good job honoring his father’s name.
After putting together a tremendous senior year, Texas’ dominating end is the Tribune-Herald’s defensive player of the year.
Jeffcoat leads the Big 12 with 12 sacks while recording 21 tackles for losses. With 80 tackles, he’s the only defensive lineman in America to lead his team in that category. He’s also recovered three fumbles even though teams have generally avoided him at all costs.
“He makes a big impact on the field because he really gets after the quarterback and disrupts them,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “His ability to rush the passer changes us as much as anything. He’s a tremendous leader on and off the field, and is a great young man.”
Jeffcoat was named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation first-team All-America squad. This season has capped a tremendous career for Jeffcoat as he’s recorded 26½ sacks and 59 tackles for losses in four seasons.
OFFENSIVE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: WEST VIRGINIA RB CHARLES SIMS
It might be a misnomer to call anything related to Charles Sims as new.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Houston, the fifth-year senior transferred to West Virginia in June to get more exposure in a more prominent conference.
Though the Mountaineers suffered through a disappointing season, Sims rushed for 1,095 yards and 11 touchdowns to earn offensive newcomer of the year. He ranks third in the Big 12 with 91.2 yards rushing per game.
Sims’ performance wasn’t unexpected after the numbers he put up at Houston. He was named Conference USA freshman of the year when he rushed for 698 yards and nine touchdowns in 2009. He followed with an 821-yard season in 2011 and an 851-yard season in 2012.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: OKLAHOMA LB DOMINIQUE ALEXANDER
It’s unusual for a true freshman to step into the Big 12 and make a major impact, but Oklahoma linebacker Dominique Alexander bucked the odds.
Straight out of Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School, Alexander has recorded 75 tackles for the Sooners this season. The mobile 6-2, 216-pound Alexander has collected 3½ tackles for losses, a sack and a fumble recovery.
“He’s one of the most impressive true freshmen we’ve ever had,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s been really strong and continues to get better.”
In his first career start against Texas, Alexander amassed 19 tackles. He also had a big game against Baylor with 11 tackles while recording a safety and a forced fumble. Alexander finished with 11 tackles against Kansas State and 10 against Iowa State.
2013 TRIBUNE-HERALD ALL-BIG 12 FOOTBALL TEAM
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
Pos Player School Ht Wt Cl Notable
QB Bryce Petty Baylor 6-3 230 Jr Second nationally in passing efficiency
RB Lache Seastrunk Baylor 5-10 210 Jr Leading league with 106 yards per game
RB James Sims Kansas 6-0 202 Sr 1,110 yards, 7 touchdowns
WR Antwan Goodley Baylor 5-10 220 Jr 109.9 receiving yards per game
WR Eric Ward Texas Tech 6-0 204 Sr 80 catches, 904 yards
TE Jace Amaro Texas Tech 6-5 257 Jr Big 12-high 98 catches, 1,240 yards
KR Tyler Lockett Kansas State 5-11 175 Jr 71 catches, 25.5 kick return avg
OL Cyril Richardson Baylor 6-5 340 Sr Outland Trophy finalist
OL Spencer Drango Baylor 6-6 315 So Dominating LT before injury
OL Parker Graham Oklahoma State 6-7 315 Sr Powerful offensive tackle
OL Donald Hawkins Texas 6-5 310 Sr Finishing outstanding career
C Gabe Ikard Oklahoma 6-4 298 Sr All-America center
K Anthony Fera Texas 6-2 220 Sr All-America kicker
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
Pos Player School Ht Wt Cl Notable
DL Jackson Jeffcoat Texas 6-5 245 Sr League-high 12 sacks
DL Ryan Mueller Kansas State 6-2 245 Jr 18 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks
DL Cedric Reed Texas 6-6 250 Jr 9 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
DL Chris McAllister Baylor 6-3 255 Sr 4th in league with 6.5 sacks
LB Jeremiah George Iowa State 5-11 219 Sr League-high 11.1 tackles per game
LB Eddie Lackey Baylor 6-0 225 Sr 97 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 ints
LB Caleb Lavey Oklahoma State 6-3 235 Sr 87 tackles, 12.5 for loss
DB Justin Gilbert Oklahoma State 6-0 200 Sr All-America cornerback
DB Jason Verrett TCU 5-10 176 Sr All-America cornerback
DB Ty Zimmerman Kansas State 6-1 204 Sr 3 ints, 2 for TDs
DB Ahmad Dixon Baylor 6-0 205 Sr 70 tackles, 7 passes defended
P Spencer Roth Baylor 6-4 225 Jr Big 12-best 46.1 yards per punt
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
Pos Player School Ht Wt Cl Notable
QB Clint Chelf Oklahoma State 6-1 210 Sr Key player down stretch
RB Charles Sims West Virginia 6-0 213 Sr 1,095 yards, 11 TDs
RB John Hubert Kansas State 5-7 191 Sr 968 yards rushing, 9 TDs
WR Tevin Reese Baylor 5-10 170 Sr 33 catches, 8 TDs before injury
WR Jakeem Grant Texas Tech 5-6 163 So 59 catches, 707 yards
TE E.J. Bibbs Iowa State 6-3 250 Jr 39 catches, 462 yards
KR B.J. Catalon TCU 5-9 190 So 26.5-yard kick return avg
OL Le’Raven Clark Texas Tech 6-5 303 So Outstanding young lineman
OL Brandon Webb Oklahoma State 6-3 326 Sr Key to OSU O-line
OL Trey Hopkins Texas 6-4 300 Sr Experience big for Longhorns
OL B.J. Finney Kansas State 6-4 303 Jr Big force for Wildcats
C Stefan Huber Baylor 6-4 290 Sr Great senior year
K Mike Hunnicut Oklahoma 6-0 169 Jr Hit 23 of 26 FGs
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
Pos Player School Ht Wt Cl Notable
DL Calvin Barnett Oklahoma State 6-2 300 Sr Strong up front for Cowboys
DL Kerry Hyder Texas Tech 6-2 281 Sr 11.5 tackles for loss
DL Will Clarke West Virginia 6-7 273 Sr 17 tackles for loss
DL Charles Tapper Oklahoma 6-3 253 So Outstanding sophomore season
LB Ben Heeney Kansas 6-0 227 Jr Shined on porous defense
LB Bryce Hager Baylor 6-2 235 Jr 71 tackles in nine games
LB Blake Slaughter Kansas State 5-10 227 Sr 103 tackles, 3 sacks
LB Will Smith Texas Tech 6-3 224 Sr 106 tackles, 4.5 for loss
DB Aaron Colvin Oklahoma 6-0 182 Sr 49 tackles for top defense
DB Jacques Washington Iowa State 6-1 220 Sr Three-year starter
DB Sam Carter TCU 6-1 215 Jr 5 interceptions, 1 for TD
DB Daytawion Lowe Oklahoma State 5-11 205 Sr 80 tackles, 65 solo
P Ryan Erxleben Texas Tech 6-1 191 Sr 44.2 yards per punt
Coach of the year: Art Briles, Baylor
Offensive player of the year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Defensive player of the year: Jackson Jeffcoat, DL, Texas
Offensive newcomer: Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
Defensive newcomer: Dominique Alexander, LB, Oklahoma